Why Is This Organization Catching Fog in the Desert?

'Cloudfishing' can yield several thousand liters of water per day.

Mar 22, 2019

(Courtesy of Dar Si Hmad)

Imagine producing water out of thin air. Now image doing so at the drought-ridden border of the Sahara Desert. It may seem crazy, but the largest fog collection system in the world is doing just that- harvesting moisture in a region undergoing rapid desertification.

After 10 years of research, approximately 500 people in southwest Morocco are currently receiving their water from the heavy fogs that decorate the mountainous landscape.

These thick fogs come from the oceans and get stuck between the mountains for about 140 days a year, making it an ideal spot to set up the incredible project, which spans 600 square meters.

The technique used, which some call “cloudfishing” uses a very fine mesh to gather tiny droplets of fog (1 to 40 millionth of a meter). Once they are heavy enough, these accumulated droplets fall into a basin. The water is then filtered with solar powered UV, sand, and cartridge filters, and then piped to 140 households in the nearby villages. An average of 6,000 liters of water is gathered daily.

This project is significant for a number of reasons. First, the Anti Atlas region of Morocco has been experiencing extreme climate change-induced droughts and rapid desertification, making water collection increasingly more difficult. Second, water collection is a burden carried by the women of these communities who spent almost half their days seeking and carrying water. Thanks to fog-harvesting technology, these women have more time to spend with their families and in pursuit of economic activities, such as those surrounding the argan oil industry.

One of the participants in the program said: “Water is everything. A house without water is empty. Now we have more time. We can open the tap and wash our clothes.. We also have more time for our children…”

The project, which is run by a female-led NGO, Dar Si Hmad, will be upgrading their systems to a new German-developed system, which is maintenance-free, can withstand wind speeds of 120 kph, and can double the water yield.

Fog-harvesting began in the 1980s in South America, and projects span countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Eritrea, Chile, and Peru.

The project will expand to eight new villages over the next two years expanding its reach to 500 new beneficiaries.

For years, the residents of these communities had no idea that the fog they were so used to was the solution to their biggest problem. Makes you wonder, what other solutions are hiding right under our noses?

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.